We all need others to some degree. In reality therapy, that’s referred to as the need for love and belonging. Our lives are more satisfying when we can spend time with people we care about.
However, there are benefits to spending time alone, too! If you have the opportunity to spend time with just “me, myself, and I” (with the TV, computer, and phone turned off), you could uncover some helpful insights about yourself. In case you don’t have that luxury of time alone, let’s pretend for a moment…
Imagine this scenario: You live alone, and wake up to a beautiful Saturday morning with no pressing demands on your time. You leisurely get out of bed and immediately stub your toe. Ouch! That puts a damper on the mood, eh?
You make something to eat, but somehow, the toast got burned and your coffee managed to get spilled over your favourite T-shirt. By now, in spite of the gorgeous day and your prior good mood, you might make the observation that you’re feeling pretty grumpy.
When you’re living with someone, it’s pretty easy to find someone to blame, isn’t it? Maybe your roommate left her shoes in your way; that’s why you tripped. Probably your children fiddled with the toaster, that’s why the toast burned. Or perhaps your spouse glanced at you with a less-than-loving expression; obviously, that upset you so much that you spilled your coffee.
However, when you are alone, well…there’s no one there to blame! If there’s a helpful lesson to learn from a morning like this, it’s, “I am the person responsible for my own moods.”
That lesson may be annoying. It’s comforting to think that if only other people would behave the way you want them to, everything in your life would be peachy. When the evidence is clear that no one else has created your bad mood, the realization can be unsettling.
We choose behaviours that seem effective at the time. So, we might stomp around to reflect that we are feeling grumpy, or huddle on the couch to reflect a feeling of depressing, even when there’s no one around to watch. Those may not be the most effective behaviours we could choose; however, they are effective for us to some degree.
Sometimes we can detect patterns in our lives. Whether it’s a series of relationships, work situations, or living arrangements, if you find yourself asking, “Why do the same things keep happening to me?” that might be a signal to look a little closer at what you’ve been doing.
What’s the common factor? Us! And it’s consistent with that old Nova Scotian adage, “Wherever you go, there you are.” (Did you realize that’s a profound behavioural insight?)
It’s easiest to see our responsibility for our behaviour when we don’t have the opportunity to blame someone else. According to reality therapy, we have choice in how we behave. So if you feel a bad mood coming on, you don’t want that feeling, and you’re not prepared to blame someone else, what are your options?